Board wait game pushes developer to breaking point



A small-scale developer was forced to live in his car while awaiting the outcome of a subdivision that he claims ruined his life.

Nathan Hogg says the waiting game he’s playing with the board has pushed him to the breaking point. He is pictured on an acre of land he is trying to subdivide in Colac Bay
Photo: LDR / Matthew Rosenberg

The fiasco turned into a standoff between the man, his surveyor and the council’s director of environmental planning who argues that the land in question has “a number of

constraints “.

Five years ago Nathan Hogg, 43, purchased a one acre (0.4 ha) section of Colac Bay in the hopes of subdividing it.

The plan was simple: keep one section to himself and sell the rest, freeing up money that would get him out of a tight spot in his life.

But after clearing trees and bringing in specialists for around $ 20,000, the dream didn’t last long.

Hogg’s September 2020 request was met with skepticism by Southland District Council, and he was told two months later that it would likely be denied.

He withdrew, but his problems were just beginning.

“It shouldn’t get to the point where you have blackouts and sleepless nights. I don’t sleep anyway, because of the pain issues,” he said.

Hogg broke his back in 2015, but returned to work prematurely as a builder so he could finance the project.

CCA was not giving him enough to cover his mortgage payments, so he rented out his Glenorchy property and only lived in his car this year. He is now based at a friend’s house in Colac Bay.

Hogg enlisted Don Moir, Director at Invercargill, Land Survey and Wastewater Specialist, Ralph Moir Ltd.

Moir believed Hogg was being taken for a walk by the council.

He admitted he was not surprised when Hogg’s first subdivision application was turned down late last year, although he still believed it should have been approved.

“The first application was certainly ambitious,” Moir said.

“When I first looked at it, I was like, ‘I have a challenge here.”

Surveyor and sewage expert Don Moir believes Hogg was treated cruelly

Surveyor and sewage expert Don Moir believes Hogg was treated cruelly
Photo: LDR / Matthew Rosenberg

The main issue at this point was the number of awards.

Hogg wanted to build seven houses on 0.4 ha – high density for a small coastal town of 60 people.

He withdrew that request in December, but filed a second in January of this year, which reduced the number of awards to just three.

Between the reduced award sizes and existing reports on geotechnology and sewage, Moir believed Hogg was gone for the races.

But nine months later, Hogg’s only prize was a $ 6,000 bill from the board – an itemized bill for his December withdrawal.

At a Southland District Council meeting in May, Hogg unsuccessfully battled the cost, a decent portion of which had gone to council covering its own expenses to enlist technical experts to peer review Hogg’s team.

“Where they’re going to hire consultants and record invoices of this type of amount, there should first be a consultation with the candidates,” Moir argued.

“For me, it’s so unethical.

“I would be kicked out of my institute for doing what the council does.”

The situation is at a standstill, where Moir believes the planner has everything in front of him to approve the request, but is unwilling to pull the trigger for reasons that remain “ambiguous”.

However, Southland District Council director of environmental planning Marcus Roy said the consultant had requested that the request be put on hold.

“The board requested additional information to better understand the nature and extent of the stresses on the site that were not provided by Hogg or the consultant,” Roy said.

He highlighted the multiple constraints that affected the approval – including high groundwater, substantial peat, and potential liquefaction.

Moir said the ball was actually in Roy’s court as he submitted information they are still waiting for council to comment on.

The request to stay the request came because Roy had indicated it would be denied, but had not been clear on what the council was actually demanding, Moir said.

Hogg and Moir admit that 0.4 ha of land has its problems, but other houses built on similar soil surround the property in all directions, which Moir has personally worked on.

“You pick any property surrounding that block in any direction and the soil conditions are the same,” Moir said.

“It’s not like this is an isolated pocket unlike all the land around it.

“We are not going to file subdivision applications that are going to be refused.”

Hogg’s original plan to build up to seven houses, including one for himself, was well and truly complete.

Hogg said the expense, delays and reduction in the number of lots had cost him too much and he would no longer be able to relocate to Colac Bay.

“I hate sob stories, really. And my personal position shouldn’t have anything to do with it. [with it],” he says.

“No one forced me to buy this property. No one forced me to subdivide it. I knew it would take time and money.

“But let it last so long … it’s a bitter pill to swallow.”

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Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest information service supported by RNZ, the News Publishers’ Association and NZ On Air.


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